Brazil: World Cup Host – and Favorite

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Brazilians have always had high expectations for their national soccer team. They are the most successful team in the history of the Fifa World Cup, with five trophies to show. When they don’t win, the consequences are severe. The last coach of Brazil (Dunga) was fired shortly after getting knocked out of the quarterfinals of the 2010 World Cup by a very good Dutch squad. Dunga’s defensive, boring soccer didn’t suit the Brazilians’ style, traditionally accustomed to quick passing and flashy tricks, which their new coach, Luiz Felipe Scolari, encourages. With the return of Brazil’s exciting playing style, they’ll be one of the favorites going into the 2014 World Cup.

Brazil hosts the tournament this year, which is a huge advantage for them. With the majority of the crowd at their side, Brazil will look to get ahead of their opposition early, and stay ahead. They scored within five minutes of the first game of the Confederation’s Cup last summer, and they never looked back, triumphing over 2010 World Champions Spain in the final, 3-0. If Brazil can get off to a quick start in this year’s tournament, it’s going to take something special to stop them.

Then there’s Neymar. He’s the poster boy for the World Cup this summer, and for good reason. He led Brazil to a fourth Confederation’s Cup trophy last year. At only 22, Neymar has a lot of pressure on him, but it doesn’t seem to affect his play. After a move from local side Santos to soccer giants Barcelona last summer, Neymar has really grown into a star. He scored an impressive 14 goals this season for his new club, and created countless other chances for his teammates.

Internationally, Neymar also has the best group of players assembled around him. He and his strike partner Fred scored 9 goals together in just five games last summer at the Confederation’s Cup last year. There are a lot of young players, but coach Scolari says, “ I don’t think this lack of World Cup experience will play a big part…our players have been gaining experience in their leagues in Europe, and I don’t think they will be affected by this too much, although in certain World Cup situations, having that experience would be important.” In the midfield Chelsea FC’s Oscar will look to get on the ball as much as possible to lead the attacks. In the back, Brazil have arguably the best defense in the tournament. Playing in the center, is Dante (Bayern Munich) and Thiago Silva (Paris Saint-Germain). According to 4-4-2 magazine’s top 100 players, Thiago Silva is the best defender in the world right now, and Bleacher Report places Dante as the 6th best defender on Earth. Stars like Liverpool’s Coutinho, and more surprisingly, Kaka were left out of the Brazil Squad. To leave Kaka, a former World Player of the Year, out of the roster, just shows how good this young, exciting Brazilian team is.

There are other individual stars in the World Cup, but they don’t have a team to support them. Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal almost didn’t get into the World Cup finals this summer. Ronaldo is a great player, but but his Portuguese teammates don’t have what it takes to win the World Cup. Lionel Messi is the most recognizable name in the world of soccer right now, but he’s been in poor form (by his high standards) this whole season. Without Messi at the top of his game, Argentina will have very little hope of winning the World Cup.

Brazil’s most difficult opponents this summer will be Spain and Germany. Spain are two time defending European Champions, and they won the 2010 World Cup. However, when they faced Brazil in the Confederation’s Cup final, they got destroyed. With their star players showing signs of slowing down in their careers, it appears that Spain’s position as number one in the world will come to an end this summer. This leaves Germany. They’ve always been a soccer powerhouse, but in the past few World Cups, they’ve choked. They’ve made it to the semi finals in three of the last four World Cups, but couldn’t take the trophy home. After so many disappointments, Germany will be motivated to finish things off right this year. Brazil hope to avoid Germany for as long as possible this tournament, but if they do face each other, Brazil, as the host nation, will have the upper hand.

Brazil are the host nation, they have a superstar in Neymar, they have a great team overall, and the other top countries have some key flaws. Given everything they’ve got going for them, it would be hard to bet against this exciting Brazilian squad.